Managing Travel for Planned Special Events
Chapter Eight. Implementation Activities
This chapter describes the third phase of managing travel for planned special events. Implementation activities mark a transition phase between event operations planning and day-of-event activities. Therefore, the phase involves both the event planning team and traffic management team. This phase includes activities key to the success of any planned special event, including implementation plan development, stakeholder review and testing, and personnel resource management.
The underlying objectives of the chapter material are to: (1) improve the efficiency of traffic management plan deployment and (2) increase traffic management team preparedness. In turn, this creates a more responsive traffic management team and fluid team operation, thus translating to better transportation system performance on the day-of-event.
The operational success of a planned special event traffic management plan rests on traffic management team members having firsthand knowledge of pertinent plan strategies and tactics. Although most stakeholder agencies comprising the traffic management team participated in developing the traffic management plan, the actual stakeholder representatives may be different. Middle and senior level personnel partaking in event operations planning initiatives may assume a traffic management team supervisory position, while agency field-level personnel may implement traffic management plan specifications and details. An implementation plan instructs field-level personnel, some of whom have little or no direct experience in managing travel for planned special events, on the what, when, and where aspects of their assignment in relation to traffic management plan requirements. On a management-level, an implementation plan specifies an action plan for activating, changing, and deactivating various traffic management plan provisions.
Review and testing allows the traffic management team to identify potential limitations of the traffic management plan prior to the day-of-event. With stakeholder agencies representing various jurisdictions and disciplines, review and testing promotes traffic management team coordination and increases stakeholder familiarity of the duties, responsibilities, and capabilities of other stakeholders. Activities range from tabletop exercises that examine how different agencies react to various scenarios to "hands-on" applications that can involve a full simulation or deploying a traffic management plan for smaller planned special events as a test.
In developing the traffic management plan, stakeholders design transportation control and management strategies to satisfactorily mitigate the impacts of event-generated travel demand. The level of response required to implement planned mitigation measures may place significant strain on agency and contractor personnel available on the day-of-event. The recruitment of temporary staff and volunteers expands traffic management team capabilities and elevates its operations efficiency. Practitioners can capitalize on the benefits of having additional personnel resources by recognizing volunteer limitations and applying proven training methods.
An implementation plan details the actions required to put a traffic management plan into effect on the day-of-event. Its purpose is to: (1) define personnel assignments that indicate the roles and responsibilities of individual traffic management team personnel on the day-of-event, (2) describe a scenario-based, operations game plan at the management-level, and (3) communicate instructions and organize personnel at the field-level. It is intended for use by individual traffic management team personnel at the command post and in the field. While the traffic management plan indicates how traffic, parking, and pedestrian operations will be managed, the implementation plan describes the what, when, and where in terms of personnel and equipment resource deployment needed to execute traffic management plan provisions. Traffic management plan revisions made on the day-of-event mandate corresponding implementation plan modifications. Field personnel may lack familiarity with a traffic management plan developed by mid-level and senior-level agency representatives, and an implementation plan ensures a coordinated and consistent traffic management team effort and prevents field personnel from having to make independent decisions. Table 8-1 lists general field-level operations guidelines.
The implementation plan communicates traffic management plan specifics using a quick reference format. The plan ranges from a memorandum to a detailed manual depending on event size and scope of plan coverage. Figure 8-2 shows two examples of implementation plans prepared for a specific planned special event. Individual stakeholders may develop a plan for the freeway/arterial corridor(s) or street networks under their jurisdiction. A large-scale implementation plan, such as an event manual, is organized by: (1) traffic management plan component (e.g., signing plan, intersection control plan, etc.), (2) zones correlating to supervisor assignments, or (3) agency jurisdiction.
Traffic management team supervisors should develop an implementation plan prior to any review and testing exercises to permit revisions and allow the participants an opportunity to become familiar with the details of their assigned job. The key to plan development, and day-of-event operations, involves assigning the right personnel, authority, and responsibility to effect optimal traffic management plan deployment. Complex tasks require skilled personnel with satisfactory experience. The implementation plan should empower traffic management team supervisors at every level: event command post, agency command post, and field locations. This allows lower-level staff to resolve certain problems without having to contact the command post, thus reducing the burden on command post personnel. While review and testing exercises may not involve all traffic management team personnel, supervisors should conduct an implementation plan review with field staff prior to the event or during day-of-event roll call.
An implementation plan describes functional activities, as specified in the traffic management plan, by location and/or resource/infrastructure type. Locations include freeway and street segments, freeway ramps, intersections, mid-block locations, and parking area access points. Specific resources and infrastructure include roadway traveler information devices, static signs, traffic control equipment, and traffic signals and associated timing plans.
The overall implementation plan organization creates numerous action plans for specific traffic management personnel or small personnel groups. Location-specific details typically specify traffic and/or pedestrian control duties and responsibilities. With regard to equipment deployment, the implementation plan contains protocol for delivery, installation, monitoring, and takedown. Stakeholders design the implementation plan to match specific personnel experienced in operating certain equipment and infrastructure.
Table 8-2 presents an implementation plan checklist. Appendix N contains example implementation plans prepared for specific planned special events. All planned actions, even if not explicitly noted in the table, must include what, when, and where instructions. For multi-day or multi-venue events, traffic control strategies and resource deployment can be organized through matrices for easy reference. Traffic management team supervisors should maintain a full version of the event traffic management plan, including contingency response plans, at the command post.
In an effort to best prepare traffic management team personnel, particularly team supervisors, for day-of-event operations, the plan can include a qualitative evaluation summary of transportation system operations for a previous, similar planned special event. This allows team members to familiarize themselves with past operations and lessons learned. The plan may highlight new provisions and changes for the subject event aimed at mitigating past lessons learned.
While all of the steps discussed up to this point are important, the best traffic management plans may fail if they are not reviewed and tested prior to their implementation. The event operations planning process, by its very nature, is based on assumptions and expectations. Those event planning team members who helped draw-up the plan may have a thorough knowledge of their agencies' experience and capabilities, but there are probably many traffic management team members and volunteer personnel who had little or no role in developing the plan, yet have the responsibility of implementing it and managing travel on the day-of-event.
While a traffic management plan can cover many contingencies, it cannot cover all possibilities. Review and testing can allow participants to see how they handle various scenarios and how varying elements can affect the plan. The testing of the plan should be considered part of the overall training that is needed for traffic management team personnel to become familiar with the plan and their role in it.
This section covers what should be done in the days leading up to plan deployment, including simulation exercises and equipment testing which will help assure that what is planned is what actually happens.
Stakeholder Simulation Exercises
A plan is just a plan until it is implemented. Simulation exercises allow that plan to be given life and allow stakeholders to see how it might work in the real world of the planned special event.
The simulation exercise can test important elements such as: (1) interagency communications, (2) deployment of personnel and equipment, and (3) information gathering and dissemination. While stakeholders may conduct the exercise at the venue where the planned special event will occur, much of the plan will involve permanent transportation management centers (TMC) or temporary command posts which are in operation before, during, and after the event. Therefore it is important that all of the responsible agencies and TMCs, which may have a role to play during the actual event, be involved with the simulation exercise.
Communications should be tested not just from a technical standpoint but also to make sure what is being communicated is understood. The simulation provides an opportunity to make certain this part of the plan works as expected.
Exercises can take on two different forms:
The purpose of both types of exercises is to: (1) test the written assumptions in the traffic management plan and (2) see what must be changed and how the plan can be improved. No matter how thorough a traffic management plan may be, it can not account for all contingencies. The plan assumes participants will follow the steps laid-out, but individuals make mistakes and equipment may fail. Both the tabletop and full-scale simulation allow the participants to see how they react to those unexpected events.
Without the benefit of testing the traffic management plan, discrepancies may not be realized until the actual implementation of the plan. During simulation exercises, mistakes can be discovered while there is still time to make modifications and before any negative consequences are realized.
In both a tabletop exercise and a full-scale simulation, participants receive and use the written traffic management plan and implementation plan as the basis for their actions. Table 8-3 lists elements of a typical exercise.
The goal of the testing is not to be mistake-free, but to identify potential problems. Therefore, when the actual event takes place errors, may be minimized and the event can run smoothly.
For both tabletop and full-scale simulations to be effective, they should test as many parts of the traffic management plan as possible using scenarios that are as realistic as possible. Since participants can not be expected to remember all that takes place during the exercise, it is critical that observers be used to: (1) watch what happens, (2) take notes on what is seen and heard, and (3) recount observations during the review process. Participant input is also crucial in the review process. They can note difficulties experienced during the exercise that might not be obvious to observers. Reviewers should debrief participants as soon as possible after the exercise so participants do not forget what they experienced. These participant observations should also be included in a more extensive review of the exercise.
Individuals who do not represent day-of-event traffic management team personnel or event stakeholders can be very useful in moderating the review process since they do not bring real or perceived bias into the process.
Finally, all of the observations and insights are useless unless there exists some opportunity to incorporate recommended changes into the traffic management plan.
At its most basic level, a tabletop exercise can simulate what actions will be taken using only a limited number of people. The tabletop exercise may be held within the confines of a room, but there is still an opportunity for representatives of all participating stakeholders to take part. The tabletop exercise can be run by a handful of people who regularly manage travel for other planned special events occurring in their region and, therefore, know how stakeholders deal with other events. The participants take on roles such as the TMC operator or field personnel and state what actions they would take based on a scenario as it is presented and as it evolves.
One shortcoming of the tabletop is that not all of the participants, especially the front-line personnel, will take part in the exercise. This could mean that those who are playing the role of a traffic management team member might handle events differently than those who actually would take the actions on the day-of-event, or that actions might differ if there were interaction with other participants. It also means that the insights, questions and suggestions of these operational personnel are lost. One way this can be addressed, in part, is to have several tabletop exercises, which review portions of the plan with smaller groups. Having multiple tabletop exercises better accommodates the schedule of designated traffic management team personnel. These exercises can focus on that portion of the plan, which in turn, involves these individuals.
A tabletop may also miss outside influences that would be dealt with during an actual planned special event. For example, a TMC operator may be handling other activities during a special event such as an incident not associated with the event.
It should be noted that a tabletop exercise could be held prior to a more detailed exercise, which involves a greater number of people. In fact, a tabletop may identify problems which can be corrected prior to a more detailed exercise and allow a better simulation of what takes place.
A full-scale simulation involves a larger number of people and takes place at various locations. During the exercise, actual communication takes place between participants including those at the planned special event site, TMCs, and in the field.
While the simulation tests elements of the traffic management plan, there is also benefit to throwing in a few curveballs to see how participants handle the unexpected. While a TMC, for example, may bring in additional staff to handle the added workload of the planned special event, there is a possibility of a major unexpected incident taking place at the same time as the event. In this instance, it may be impossible to follow all elements of the traffic management plan, and participants can be tested on how they identify priorities and decide what portions of the plan to follow or discard.
While a simulation will bring weaknesses to light, it is important that all those affected become aware of those weaknesses and work together on how to modify the plan, prior to the day-of-event, to minimize the weak spots.
An important part of the simulation is the review that follows. All those who participated in the simulation now have an opportunity to: (1) go over the simulation step-by-step, (2) compare it to the traffic management plan which was developed, and (3) modify the plan as appropriate. There are several reasons why it is important that all participants have an opportunity to critique the simulation. First, a problem may only be observed by one individual, yet that problem could affect the entire operation. Secondly, if the plan is modified, it needs to be discussed by all those who are affected. In the same way it is important for all pertinent stakeholders to have a role in developing the traffic management plan, it is important also for everyone to be aware of necessary plan changes and to note how those changes may impact their agency's operation on the day-of-event.
A wide variety of equipment may be used to manage travel during a planned special event. This includes communications equipment and equipment in the field, which supports the traffic management plan and helps the traffic management team manage the event. Equipment that may need to be tested includes:
While testing is no guarantee that equipment will work as expected, it is useful in identifying unknown problems and potential problems before the event. For example, if an event is taking place in a remote area, communication to field devices may be hindered by weak or nonexistent signals.
Stakeholders should consider testing for these types of problems as far in advance of the event as possible so that alternatives can be identified and developed. Other types of testing, such as the functioning of field equipment, should take place just prior to the event to make sure it will be working during the event.
During a planned special event, communications will often be routed from the command post at the planned special event site through the TMC, if present, to field personnel and others responsible for implementing various elements. Since the venue is at a location where transportation management activities may not normally take place, it is especially important that communication linkages between the venue and the TMCs work well. If radio communications are required, these should be tested on all frequencies expected to be used. If wired communications are installed, then they should also be tested. Back-up communication channels should also be tested in the event primary channels develop problems. For instance, cellular phone systems might be overloaded during an event that draws a large number of people, especially if a problem occurs during the event, which causes many event patrons to use their mobile phones.
Communication from the TMC to various field staff must also be tested. Again, some of these field personnel may be in locations not normally used during day-to-day activities, and this testing will verify communication can take place from the TMC to all field positions.
There are other pieces of equipment that are also important and these should be tested. For example, motorist information tools such as CMS and HAR may be used to transmit important information both to (1) those attending the event and (2) those who are traveling through the area and who stakeholders want to steer clear of the event. In many instances, portable CMS may be deployed. Communications from the TMC to the signs must be tested to make certain there are no problems updating the signs. Again, keep in mind that portable signs may use the same cellular phone frequencies that event patrons use and, as a result, communications that work during a simulation may not be as reliable during the actual event.
As with other elements of the traffic management plan, contingencies should be developed. If wireless communications are unavailable, what alternates are available? Can field personnel be deployed to manually adjust equipment? Do these individuals possess sufficient qualifications needed to operate the equipment? There are a host of questions that should be considered and tested.
Traffic management plan implementation on the day-of-event involves personnel duties ranging from trivial tasks to responsibilities critical to the safety and mobility of transportation system users. A traffic management team comprised of supervisors and field staff having experience in assigned duties and responsibilities represents a key to successfully managing travel for planned special events. Experienced personnel should exist at all levels in the traffic management team hierarchy: interagency command, agency command, and field operations. However, supplementing experienced personnel with temporary staff and volunteers on the day-of-event also provides advantages that (1) reduce personnel cost as public agency personnel likely require overtime wages on the day-of-event, (2) permit public agencies to adequately meet other daily staffing requirements, and (3) provide expanded control over transportation operations and greater convenience to event patrons.
In some cases, the amount of personnel required to implement traffic management plan strategies (e.g., traffic/pedestrian control, parking, surveillance) on the day-of-event, coupled with implementation plan assignments such as equipment delivery and installation, may exceed the staffing capabilities of agencies and contractors involved in managing travel for a planned special event. As a result, the recruitment and training of temporary staff and volunteers becomes paramount to the success of day-of-event operations. The effectiveness and ultimate success of a traffic management plan depends on the level of personnel (and equipment) resources available to implement the plan. A determination to use and train volunteers, or additional volunteers, may occur as late as after the completion of stakeholder simulation exercises and after stakeholders make final revisions to the traffic management plan and implementation plan.
Table 8-4 lists common personnel resource requirements on the day-of-event. The table indicates volunteers are better suited for non-essential activities, primarily because of experience and reliability concerns. Yet, these activities contribute toward improved traffic and pedestrian flow within the venue site area. For instance, the deployment of field observers allows for data and information to be collected, processed, and transmitted in real-time to traffic management supervisors. Volunteers can facilitate improved operations at mode transfer points, such as shuttle bus stations and pick-up/drop-off areas. Public agency stakeholders do not have the resources or budget to assign paid staff for every activity supporting traffic management plan implementation. These stakeholders, coupled with private contractor support, can instead work to supervise teams of volunteers charged with traffic and pedestrian management support tasks.
This section focuses on tasks associated with the use of volunteer personnel in managing travel for planned special events. As emphasized in this and previous chapters, stakeholders have the responsibility of assigning staff experienced in handling challenging tasks that comprise a particular traffic, pedestrian, or parking management strategy. While some experienced personnel may not have worked a planned special event in the past, they have performed the same or similar task(s) on regular basis as a result of day-to-day responsibilities or response to other events (e.g., traffic incidents and roadway construction activities). For instance, the actions involved in programming a CMS or HAR during a planned special event does not change from its use in other situations. The stakeholder simulation exercises described in the previous section represent training for experienced personnel on managing travel for a particular planned special event. In contrast to experienced personnel, many volunteers have no past experience in managing travel for planned special events, nor do they have experience in tasks associated with traffic and pedestrian control and parking operations.
Prior to initiating volunteer recruiting efforts, event planning team and/or traffic management team stakeholders must determine the number of volunteers needed. This represents a function of the number of potential volunteer work assignments and number of available volunteer supervisors. An alternative approach to recruiting after traffic management plan development involves: (1) soliciting the public, through event advertisements, for volunteers early in the event operations planning phase and (2) developing a volunteer contact list for later reference as conditions warrant. The list may also indicate the type of work task(s) favored by each volunteer. Event organizers or traffic management team supervisors should obtain written confirmation from stakeholders that personnel resources pledged during the event operations planning phase will be available on the day-of-event.
A key consideration in supervising volunteers, or any personnel, involves maintaining good span of control. Incident Command System guidelines suggest keeping the span of control between three and seven persons reporting to a supervisor with one supervisor per five subordinates as a rule of thumb.(1) A supervisor should represent an agency or contractor involved in planning and managing a particular planned special event. The supervisor should also have full knowledge of the duties and responsibilities of each subordinate, and supervisors may train the particular volunteer group that they have been assigned to lead on the day-of-event.
Volunteer recruiting and associated training activities result in volunteers knowing their respective work assignment prior to the day-of-event. Because different special event work assignments peak varying levels of interest among volunteers, stakeholders should recruit additional volunteers for certain low-interest assignments. For example, most volunteers do not like parking assignments; therefore, overkill in volunteers stationed at parking areas represents a good tactic.(2) This avoids a potential shortfall relative to volunteers not showing up for work on the day-of-event.
Various perks can improve and speed-up the volunteer recruiting process. Stakeholders should consider providing volunteers with (1) free public transportation to and from the event venue site and (2) free food and beverages while on shift. Table 8-5 summarizes other rewards for volunteer service.
Training for volunteers and temporary staff ensure these personnel: (1) understand the traffic management plan component governing their assignment, (2) disseminate accurate information to event patrons and supervisors, and (3) understand traffic management team operations protocol. Training involves the distribution of reference material, pre-event seminars, or both. Reference material should detail specific duties and list volunteer report time, roll call location, shift duration, and supervisor assignment. A day-of-event checklist would assist volunteers in identifying and remembering items (e.g., proper clothing, sunscreen, sunglasses, reference guide, etc.) to bring for their shift. Volunteers also would benefit from carrying an event transportation and parking guide or fact sheet for quick reference when assisting event patrons. Such reference guides contain information on key traffic management plan provisions, particularly those that contrast normal transportation system operations in the vicinity of the event venue.
Table 8-6 lists general volunteer training activities. Since most volunteers do not possess relevant experience in managing transportation and parking operations, training activities should address all of the potential decision-making scenarios that volunteers may encounter in addition to day-of-event communications.
The traffic management team may supply some volunteer staff with a handheld, two-way radio for volunteer-to-volunteer and volunteer-to-supervisor communication. Compared to cell phone use, two-way radios allow all pertinent personnel, including those at the command post, to hear one message. Volunteers should receive written and verbal instruction, including sample conversations, on radio protocol that includes: (1) how to make and receive a call, (2) common radio terminology, (3) making priority or emergency calls, and (4) conditions warranting a priority call. Volunteers also should know how to use all radio functions.
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